Ex-divis hit FTSE, US stocks near record high, trade comes back in focus

Morning Note

US stocks rallied to close near its all-time highs yesterday amid what some are saying are signs of greater confidence in the economic recovery in the US. Or perhaps it’s just even speedier decoupling between Wall St and Main St. Nevertheless, bond yields pushed higher amid a faster-than-expected rise in US inflation, whilst the market is starting to focus again on trade and tariffs.

The fact that the broad stock market is at all-time highs is a testament to unbelievable amounts of monetary and fiscal stimulus – the patient is hooked, and only more drugs will do. The disconnect between the stock market and the real economy is too stark, too unjust and too indicative of a system that continues to favour capital over labour that, sooner or later, a change is gonna come.

Europe soft despite strong close on Wall Street, TUI posts earnings wipe-out

Never mind all that for now though, stonks keep going up. The S&P 500 rose 1.4% to end at 3,380, just six points under its record closing high at 3,386.15, with the record intraday peak at 3,393.52. Asian stocks broadly followed through, with shares in Tokyo up almost 2%.

European stocks failed to take the cue and were a little soft on the open, with the FTSE 100 the laggard at -1%, though 22.3pts are due to BP, Shell, Diageo, AstraZeneca, GSK and Legal & General among others going ex-dividend.

For a taste of the real economy, we can look at TUI, which said group revenues in the June quarter were down 98% to €75m. It’s a total wipe-out of earnings, but it’s not a surprise – the business was at a virtual standstill for most of the period and was only able to resume some limited operations from mid-May. Just 15% of hotels reopened in the quarter, whilst all three cruise lines remain suspended.

TUI posted an EBIT loss of €1.1bn for the quarter, taking total losses over the last nine months to €2bn, with €1.3bn due to the pandemic forcing the business to be suspended. Summer bookings are down over 80% but it has got another €1.2bn lifeline from the German government. Shares fell over 6% in early trade.

Trade in focus as US-China weekend talks approach

US-China tensions are rearing their head again. Officials meet this Saturday to review progress of the phase one deal. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow the deal was ‘fine right now’. Sticking with trade, the US is maintaining 15% tariffs on Airbus aircraft and 25% tariffs on an array of European goods, including food and wine, despite moves by the EU to end the trade dispute.

Crucially it did not follow through with a threat to hike tariffs, however it still leaves the risk of further escalation when the EU is likely to win WTO approval to strike back with its own tariffs.

Strong US CPI raises stagflation fears

Yesterday, despite the optimism in the market, there was – for me at least – some potential signs of bad news for the real economy (not the stock market, remember) with US inflation picking up faster than expected. You can read this as the economy doing better than fared as consumers return, but you can equally take a glass half empty view and see this as a major worry that prices of essentials are going to rise whilst economic growth stagnates – which can be a cocktail for a period of stagflation.

Given the enormous amount of money being pumped into the system, there is a better than evens chance we get an inflation surge even if the pandemic was initially very disinflationary. Unlike in the wake of the financial crisis, the cash is not being gobbled up in the banking system as increased capital buffers etc, but is going into the (real) economy. Moreover, it’s being done in tandem with a massive fiscal loosening.

Short-lived pullback for USD?

Year-over-year, headline inflation rose from 0.6% to 1%, whilst core CPI was up 1.6% in July vs the 1.2% expected. Food prices rose 4.6%, whilst the cost of a suit is down a lot. The risk is that inflation expectations can start to become unanchored as they did in the 1970s when the Fed had lost credibility, this led to a period of stagflation and was only tamed by Volcker’s aggressive hiking cycle.

Investor optimism is keeping the dollar in check. The dollar index moved back to the 93 mark, whilst the euro broke above 1.18 against the greenback for a fresh assault on 1.19, twice rejected lately. Sterling is making more steady progress but is well supported for now above 1.30, however the dollar’s pullback may be short-lived. Gold held onto gains to trade above $1930 after testing the near-term trend support around $1865 yesterday.

US EIA data, OPEC report boost oil

Oil prices held gains after bullish inventory data and OPEC’s latest monthly report. WTI (Sep) moved beyond $42 after the latest EIA report showed a draw of 4.5m barrels last week. Meanwhile, as noted yesterday, OPEC’s new report indicated the cartel will continue with production cuts for longer.

In its monthly report, OPEC lowered its 2020 world oil demand forecast, forecasting a drop of 9.06m bpd compared to a drop of 8.95m bpd in the previous monthly report. But the report also sought to calm fears that OPEC+ will be too quick to ramp up production again. Specifically, OPEC said its H2 2020 outlook points to the need for continued efforts to support market rebalancing. Compliance was down but broadly the message seems to be that OPEC is not about to walk away from the market.

Euro, gold break higher as dollar snaps bullish trend

Morning Note

The euro rose to 18-month highs after EU leaders agreed their stimulus package and a broad risk rally saw the bulk of dollar crosses achieve long-awaited technical breakouts. EURUSD has broken out above 1.15, the key March swing high resistance, with the next target in sight for bulls at 1.1570, the January 2019 peak. Three consecutive daily gains show strong momentum with the bulls. The pair needs to hold onto this 1.15 to move up into the 1.1760 area around the long-term 38.2% Fibonacci retrace.

Elsewhere in FX markets, sterling rose to its best level in a month against the dollar, as the greenback came under pressure across the board. GBPUSD has cleared 1.27 but the rally lost near-term momentum around 1.2770, short of the Jun highs at 1.2810. The Aussie has also cleared some big levels and AUDUSD is looking to take out its Apr 2019 highs at 0.72 before it can consider the Nov 2018 peak at 0.74.

I don’t like to call the dollar top anything like as easily as many, but the dollar is set up to retrace some more of the last two years’ gains. The dollar index has broken down at two-year trend support which may call for further downside pressure to build, particularly now the EU has apparently got its house in order and the US needs to keep up. This morning we have seen USD push back a little – GBPUSD needs to hold yesterday’s low 1.2650 needs to hold for sterling bulls.

Gold has broken out to notch fresh nine-year highs at $1,865, bringing the $1,900 firmly into view as well as the all-time high around $1,921 becoming a real target. US 10yr Treasury yields drifted under 0.6% but are just about holding onto this level for now. Real rates continue to stretch out deeper into negative territory, with 10yr TIPS sliding to –0.87% and the whole curve falling. The way interest rates are looking combined with the macro backdrop and the threat of an inflation surge caused by the amount of aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus, means gold may end the year at $2,000. Unless the inflation comes through though this may mark a medium-term top with real interest rates at the bottom of their multi-year range and without much room to extend further into negative territory. Two big, interconnected questions for gold bulls now – can 10yr TIPS break out to the downside and take out –1%, and does inflation come through in 2021 or even 2022 when the cycle picks up?

Oil broke out to finally close the gap to the March 6th level. WTI (Aug) rose above $42 but pared gains on an unexpectedly large build in US crude stockpiles. Crude inventories rose by 7.5m barrels last week, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The Energy Information Administration is forecast to report a draw of 2.1m barrels when it releases its weekly report later today. If the EIA confirms the API numbers it would be the biggest build in inventories since late May. There is a risk that there is a greater and faster build-up in inventories as states have rolled back some lockdown restrictions and demand may not have picked up as quickly as anticipated. Jobless claims figures indicate far fewer trips made for work.

US stocks finished up on Tuesday but only just and closed near the lows of the day. The Nasdaq fell 0.8% but the S&P 500 rose 0.17% and remains up for 2020. European stocks were a tad weaker this morning, but the DAX has cleared its Jun range. The FTSE 100 continues to chop around the middle of its range and may face some pressure from a strengthening pound.

Whilst the EU has worked out its stimulus, the US is trying to fashion its latest package. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he expects another round of direct payments to feature in the next package, with the $600 weekly top-up cheques coming to an end this month, an abrupt drop in earnings for many households.

Tesla shares fell over 4% yesterday as the stock continues its wild ride that has seen it rally over 270% this year. The company is likely to report a fourth straight quarterly profit later today after the closing bell on Wall Street, which would clear the way for it to enter the S&P 500 and may explain the recent rally as funds have decided they will need to own some of it. Estimates range from an earnings per share (EPS) loss of $2.50 on revenues of $2.77bn to a $1.5 profit on $6.2bn in sales.

The stock pushed to all-time highs close to $1,800 after the company said it delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, well ahead of both what the company had guided and the Street expectation for 83,000 vehicles. The company has successfully ramped production at its Fremont site and the Shanghai plant also came back online after being forced to shutter in the first quarter due to Covid. China sales are picking up with Tesla selling almost 12,000 Model 3s in May. JMP Securities analyst Joseph Osha, one of the stock’s biggest bulls, downgraded this week to market perform from outperform.

Stocks firm, earnings unmask weakness, OPEC+ decision eyed

Morning Note

European markets moved up again this morning after stocks rallied on Wall Street and futures indicate further gains for US equity markets despite big bank earnings underlining the problems on Main Street. Sentiment recovered somewhat after Moderna’s vaccine candidate showed ‘promising’ results from phase 1 trials. It is too early to call a significant breakthrough, but it’s certainly encouraging.

Cyclical components led the way for the Dow with top performers the likes of Caterpillar and Boeing, as well as energy names Exxon and Chevron up over 3% as the index rose over 500pts, or 2.1%, its best day in over two weeks. Apple shares regained some ground to $388 ahead of an EU court ruling today on whether the company should repay €13bn in unpaid taxes.

Asian markets were mixed, with China and Hong Kong lower as US-China tensions rose, but shares in Japan and Australia were higher. European shares advanced around 0.75% in early trade, with the FTSE reclaiming 6,200 and the DAX near 12,800.

However, Tuesday’s reversal off the June peak may still be important – lots of things need to go right to extend the rally and you must believe this reporting season will not be full of good news, albeit EPS estimates – such as they are – may be relatively easy to beat.

My sense is what while the stock market does not reflect the real economy, this does not mean we are about to see a major drawdown again like we saw in March. The vast amount of liquidity that has been injected into the financial system by central banks and the fiscal splurge will keep stocks supported – the cash needs to find a home somewhere and bonds offer nothing. It will likely take a significant escalation in cases – a major second wave in the winter perhaps – to see us look again at the lows.

For the time being major indices are still chopping around the Jun-Jul ranges, albeit the S&P 500 and DAX are near their tops. Failure to breakout for a second time will raise the risk of a bigger near-term pullback, at least back to the 50% retracement of June’s top-to-bottom move in the second week of that month.

Trading revenues, loan loss provisions surge at US banks

US bank earning highlighted the divergence between the stock market and the real economy. JPMorgan and Citigroup posted strong trading revenues from their investment bank divisions but had to significantly increase loan loss provisions at their consumer banks. Wells Fargo – which does have the investment banking arm to lean on – increased credit loss provisions in the quarter to $9.5bn from $4bn in Q1, vs expectations of about $5bn.

This begs the question of when the credit losses from bad corporate and personal debt starts to catch up with the broader market. Moreover, investors need to ask whether the exceptional trading revenues are all that sustainable. Shares in Citigroup and Wells Fargo fell around 4%, whilst JPMorgan edged out a small gain. Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon and US Bancorp report today along with Dow component UnitedHealth.

UK retail earnings

In the UK, retail earnings continue to look exceptionally bleak. Burberry reported a drop in sales of 45% in the first quarter, with demand down 20% in June. Asia is doing OK, but the loss of tourist euros in Europe left EMEIA revenues down 75% as rich tourists stayed clear of stores because of lockdown. Sales in the Americas were down 70% but there is a slight pickup being seen. Encouragingly, mainland China grew mid-teens in Q1 but grew ahead of the January pre COVID level of 30% in June, Burberry said. Shares opened down 5%.

Dixons Carphone reported a sharp fall in adjusted profit to £166m from £339m a year before, with a statutory loss of £140m reflecting the cost of closing Carphone stores. Electricals is solid and online sales are performing well, with the +22% rise in this sector including +166% in April. Whilst Dixons appears to have done well in mitigating the Covid damage by a good online presence, the Mobile division, which was already impaired, continues to drag.

Looking ahead, Dixons says total positive cashflow from Mobile will be lower than the previous guidance of about £200m, in the range of £125m-£175m. Shares fell 6% in early trade.

White House ends Hong Kong special status, US to impose sanctions

US-China tensions are not getting any better – Donald Trump signed a law that will allow the US to impose sanctions on Chinese officials in retaliation for the Hong Kong security law. The White House has also ended the territory’s special trade status – it is now in the eyes of the US and much of the west, no different to rest of China. This is a sad reflection of where things have gone in the 20+ years since the handover.  Britain’s decision to strip Huawei from its telecoms networks reflects a simple realpolitik choice and underscores the years of globalisation are over as east and west cleave in two.

The Bank of Japan left policy on hold but lowered its growth outlook. The forecast range by BoJ board members ranged from -4.5% to -5.7%, worse than the April range of -3% and –5%. It signals the pace of recovery in Japan and elsewhere is slower than anticipated.

Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard talked up more stimulus and suggested stricter forward guidance would be effective – even indicating that the central bank could look at yield curve control – setting targets for short- and medium-term yields in order to underpin their forward guidance.

EUR, GBP push higher ahead of US data; BOC decision on tap

In FX, we are seeing the dollar offered. EURUSD has pushed up to 1.1430, moving clear of the early Jun peak, suggesting a possible extension of this rally through to the March high at 1.15. GBPUSD pushed off yesterday’s lows at 1.2480 to reclaim the 1.26 handle, calling for a move back to the 1.2670 resistance struck on the 9-13 July.

Data today is focused on the US industrial production report, seen +4.3% month on month, and the Empire State manufacturing index, forecast at +10 vs -0.2 last month. The Bank of Canada is expected to leave interest rates on hold at 0.25% today, so we’ll be looking to get an update on how the central bank views the path of economic recovery.  Fed’s Beige Book later this evening will offer an anecdotal view of the US economy which may tell us much more than any backward-looking data can.

Oil remains uncertain ahead of OPEC+ decision

Oil continues to chop sideways ahead of the OPEC+ decision on extending cuts. WTI (Aug) keeps bouncing in and off the area around $40 and price action seems to reflect the uncertainty on OPEC and its allies will decide. The cartel is expected to taper the level of cuts by about 2 million barrels per day from August, down from the current record 9.7 million bpd. Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo had said on Monday that the gradual easing of lockdown measures across the globe, in tandem with the supply cuts, was bringing the oil market closer to balance.

However, an unwinding of the cuts just as some economies put the brakes on activity again threatens to send oil prices lower. OPEC yesterday said it expects a bullish recovery in demand in the second half, revising its 2020 oil demand drop to 8.9m bpd, vs the 9m forecast in June. The cartel cited better data in developed nations offsetting worse-than-expected performance in emerging markets. EIA inventories are seen showing a draw of 1.3m barrels after last week produced an unexpected gain of 5.7m barrels.

Equities feel the hangover

Morning Note

Equity markets look a tad bleary-eyed and hungover this morning after a bit of binge. Call it exuberance, but the strong rally in China stoked by the state-run press left markets with only way to travel on Monday and now the price has to be paid. Meanwhile we continue to monitor the rising cases in the US and an emerging spat between the UK and China over Hong Kong and Huawei which simply evinces the fact that Covid is reshaping the world.

European stocks handed back some of Monday’s gains on the open on Tuesday after the strong start to the trading week pushed the FTSE 100 back above 6200. Energy and financials led the fall but all Stoxx 600 sectors dropped in the first hour of trade. Tokyo and Hong Kong fell, but shares in China continued to rally on very high volumes.

Nasdaq hits fresh record high, but is a correction incoming for Wall Street?

Wall Street also rallied after the bump up in China, with the Nasdaq hitting a fresh all-time high, but yesterday had a feel of a frothy move based on nothing but fumes. The put/call ratio for the S&P 500, which reflects market positioning and sentiment, has fallen to levels that have in the past indicated a correction is in the offing. Speculators have also lately aggressively cut their net long positioning on S&P 500 futures.

The upcoming earnings season will be crucial, and investors may see earnings estimates reduced given that many companies simply scrapped guidance, which could call for a rethink of valuations. Indices continue to track the ranges of June, so until we break out in either direction the pattern is one of a choppy but sideways market as investors try to figure out the balance on offer between reopening & stimulus vs cases & permanent economic damage from falling confidence and increased saving.

Recovery is happening, but is it fast enough: German industrial production rose 7.8% in May, but the figure was short of the 11% that was expected. Meanwhile, BMW Q2 sales in China rose from the same period a year ago, which might be down to the pent-up demand from the shutdown in the country in Q1, but nevertheless indicates a decent pace of recovery in the world’s second largest economy.

The UK’s Halifax mortgage survey showed prices fell for a fourth month in a row in June, but activity levels are rebounding, with enquiries up 100% from May. It’s too early to tell if this rebound can be sustained – a truism across the economic data prints we see right now.

Fed’s Bostic cautious over US recovery

Meanwhile we got another dose of salt from Raphael Bostic, the Atlanta Fed president, who warned of signs the US recovery is levelling off. Indeed, the headline nonfarm payrolls number last Thursday masks a lot of ills. Not least of which, permanent job losses are on the rise: while the number of unemployed classed as being on temporary layoff decreased by 4.8m in June to 10.6m, following a decline of 2.7m in May, the number of permanent job losers continued to rise, increasing by 588,000 to 2.9m in June.

Additionally, the data for the June report was collected largely before the spike in cases in several of the big economically important states like Texas and California. Dr Fauci said the US is still ‘knee-deep’ in the first wave.

RBA holds rates, notes increased uncertainty on rising Covid-19 cases

The Reserve Bank of Australia left interest rates on hold at the record low 0.25%, but noted households and businesses are worried about the state of the economy after the jump in cases in Victoria raised doubts about the country’s handling of the outbreak, which had been assumed to be as good as New Zealand.

“The downturn has been less severe than earlier expected,” RBA governor Philip Lowe said in a statement, but added that “uncertainty about the health situation and the future strength of the economy is making many households and businesses cautious, and this is affecting consumption and investment plans”. Scott Morrison’s government will deliver a statement on July 23rd outlining further support on the fiscal side.

Gold still bullish, EUR and GBP drift lower

Elsewhere, gold’s bullish bias remains intact as it consolidates around $1780 and may be preparing for a fresh run towards $1800 – first up it needs to clear the seven-year highs at $1789. WTI (Aug) is steady at $40 for now and in FX we see the majors still trading within recent ranges as the dollar recovers a little from Monday’s risk-on sell-off.

EURUSD failed to break the June swing high at 1.1345 yesterday and has pulled back towards the middle of the bullish pennant. GBPUSD has also drifted lower after several failed attempts in the last session to clear the 1.2520 resistance, finding some immediate support on the 200-period SMA on the 4-hr chart. Sterling has that RoRo feel.

FX update: Pound blown off course by Frosty Brexit talks, euro tests 200-day line

Forex

Sterling got a smack and the euro pulled back from its highs of the day as Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator confirmed what we already knew; that UK-EU talks are not going very well at all. Whilst a classic last-minute EU fudge is still broadly anticipated by the market, the language from David Frost was not optimistic.

GBPUSD moved sharply off the 1.23 handle, turning lower to test 1.2250 before paring those losses. EURGBP pushed higher and looked towards the May 21st swing high at 0.90, a two-month peak. Undoubtedly sterling becomes increasingly exposed to headline risks around Brexit as we move out of the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic and back into the cut-and-thrust of negotiations.

Speaking to MPs, Frost said the EU’s current mandate handed to chief negotiator Michel Barnier is – in certain key areas –  not likely to produce an agreement, adding that the EU must change its stance in order to reach a deal with the UK. He said that the policy enshrined in the EU’s mandate is not one that can be agreed by the UK. Interesting to see sterling come back a touch as Mr Frost said it’s still the early stages of talks and the UK is still setting out its position – this seems rather optimistic given the timelines previously mentioned.

Whilst we knew that there had been precious little progress in the latest round of talks, the language indicates the two sides are very far apart still. We should however note that adopting this tone is part of the game – the UK’s position remains to take a hard line and, with Mr Cummings still in place, I would think this will remain the case. When questioned, Mr Frost said he reports to the PM, not to Mr Cummings. Of course, we all know where the real power lies.

As previously noted time is running out fast for the talks and we become less sure that either side has the political will and capital to expend on this when dealing with the economic catastrophe of the pandemic. The EU focus is on sorting out a rescue fund that all members can sign up to. Political capital is being spent on that more readily.

Chatter around the Bank of England looking at negative rates is another weight on sterling right now. Indeed it’s a crossroads moment as we deal with a massive increase in government debt, run huge twin deficits and exit the EU whilst in the midst of the worst global recession since the 1930s. There are a lot of downside risks for GBP.

Chart: Pound under pressure: EURGBP moves up to test near-term resistance, GBPUSD drops sharply

Meanwhile, EURUSD also pulled back from its highs, before recovering the 1.10 handle. The euro had earlier moved higher and European equities extended gains after the European Commission laid out plans for an additional €750bn stimulus fund. Ursula von der Leyen set out plans to distribute €500bn in grants – as per the Franco-German proposals – with an additional €250bn in loans on top. She said this would take the EU’s total recovery fund to €2.4 trillion.

A German government spokesman said Berlin was happy the EU had taken up elements of the plans set out last week by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Macron urged the EU to move forward quickly. But a Dutch official said budget talks would ‘take time’, indicating a still rather frosty approach to the rescue fund from certain corners – it’s far from a done deal.

Chart: EURUSD analysis

The EC plans took the cross through the 200-day simple moving average around 1.1010 but there was not an immediate follow-through and the Brexit chatter knocked it back before it retook the 200-day line. Bulls need to see a confirmed push above this to unlock the path back to 1.1150, the March swing high. Failure calls for retest of recent swing lows at 1.0880.

FX strategy: euro, pound push up as dollar offered on risk appetite return

Forex

The euro and Sterling were on the front foot on Tuesday, with cable stretching its advance to near a 2-week peak. Whilst the dollar was offered on a broad return of risk appetite, the euro also seemed to get some lift from the ECB, which is giving signals it’s ready to do even more.

Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau, a key member of the ECB’s Governing Council, told a conference on Monday that there is room for the central bank to act ‘rapidly and powerfully’.

Speaking to CNBC subsequently on Tuesday he said there is a need to be flexible with the current round of coronavirus asset purchases, suggesting that the ECB shouldn’t need to bound to capital keys that dictate how many government bonds it can purchase based on the size of each country’s economy.

The German Constitutional Court ruling earlier this month expressly stated that the capital key was essential to avoid distorting markets, so this could fuel further disquiet among those hawks who have been set against the ECB’s bond buying.

Meanwhile, we await to see whether the EU states can agree a fiscal response, with Denmark, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands countering the Franc-German proposal for a €500bn bailout fund to be financed by the European Commission issuing bonds. The so-called ‘Frugal Four’ want only a short-term emergency scheme financed by loans.

EURUSD chart analysis

Prices are in recovery mode following a rejection of the lows yesterday at 1.0870. EURUSD extended to 1.09730 – with this high formed we can look to recover the 1.1020, the May 1st peak which could open up a breakout from the two-month range.

GBPUSD chart analysis

Meanwhile GBPUSD pushed up to a 2-week high at 1.23 after the 1.2160 support area held and we saw a push through the 1.2250 channel. A break to the upside calls for a return to 1.25/1.26 and the Apr double top highs. Failure to sustain the move beyond 1.23 calls for retest of the 1.2160 support and thence the swing low at 1.2080 comes back into focus.

European equities rally as euro, pound crack lower

Equities
Forex
IPO
Morning Note

European markets were on the front foot on Friday morning despite a weak cue from the US and Asia as currency weakness and expectations for yet lower interest rates fuelled risk appetite. Asian shares plumbed a three-week low but European bourses are trading up again. The FTSE 100 continued the good work from Thursday to hit 7400 and make a clear break out of the recent range. With the move north a decent case to make for the 7450 area, the 61.8% retracement of the August retreat.

The S&P 500 declined quarter a percent to 2977.62 against a back drop of political uncertainty in Washington. Markets won’t like these impeachment hearings but ultimately the risk of Mr Trump being ousted by Congress appears very slim indeed.

Another stinker of an IPO – Peloton shares priced at $29 but were down $2 at $27 on the first tick and ended 11.2% lower at $25.76. First day nerves maybe but this stock has fad written all over it. Think GoPro.

On the matter of dodgy prospectuses and dubious IPOs… S&P has downgraded WeWork debt another notch, and slapped a negative outlook on for good measure.

FX – the euro now looks to be on the precipice, on the verge of breaking having made fresh two-year lows on EURUSD. Whilst the 1.09 level may still hold, the banging on the Sep 3/12 lows at 1.09250 has produced a result with overnight tests at 1.09050. We’ve seen a slight bounce early doors in Europe but the door is ajar for bears. The Euro is under pressure as ECB chief economist Lane said there is room for more cuts and said the September measures were ‘not such a big package’. How much more can the ECB feasibly do?

Sterling is tracking lower against the broader moves in favour of USD. There is a chance as we approach crunch time on Brexit that GBPUSD pushes back to the lower end of the recent range, the multi-year lows around 1.19. Bulls have a fairly high bar to clear at 1.25. At time of publication, the pound had cracked below yesterday’s low at 1.23, opening up a return to 1.2280 and then 1.2230. The short-covering rally is over – time for political risk to dominate the price action.

Bank of England rate setter Saunders made pretty dovish comments, saying it’s quite plausible the next move is a cut. In making the case for a cut now it conforms to the belief in many in the market that the Bank is barking up the wrong tree with its slight tightening bias in its forward guidance. The comments from Saunders are clearly an added weight on the pound.

On Brexit – there’s a lot of noise of course and all the chatter is about MPs’ use of language and how could Boris possibly still take the UK out of the EU by October 31st without a deal. The fact is he can and he intends to. There is some serious risk that GBP declines from here into the middle of October on the uncertainty and heightened risk of no deal. This would then be the make or break moment – extension agreed and we easily pop back to 1.25, no deal and it’s down to 1.15 or even 1.10.

Data to watch today – PCE numbers at 13:30 (BST). If the core CPI numbers are anything to go by, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation may point to greater price pressures than the Fed has really allowed for. Core durable goods also on tap, expected -1.1%. Plenty of central bank chatter too –de Guindos and Weidmann from the ECB follow Lane and then Quarles and Harker from the Fed. Should keep us busy this Friday.

Oil is in danger of entirely fading the gap back to $54.85, the pre-attack close, having made a fresh low yesterday at $55.40. There’s still a modicum of geopolitical risk premium in there though, but bearish fundamentals are reasserting themselves over the bullish geopolitics. WTI was at $56.10, ready to retest recent lows at $55.40. Bulls require a rally to $57.0 to mark a gear change. However we are now touching the rising trend support line drawn off the August low at $50, so could be finding some degree of support.

Gold is pretty range-bound now, but we are seeing it test the $1500 level which could call for retreat to near $1482, the bottom of the recent range and key support.

Gold & bitcoin firmer, stocks and dollar softer

Equities
Morning Note

Stocks and the US dollar were softer whilst gold and Bitcoin continued to drive higher as markets look ahead to the G20 meeting.

Stocks have eased as markets look ahead to the G20 meeting – optimism is fading a little and we would expect investors to perhaps take some risk off the table ahead of the meeting, particularly given the recent bump. Bear in mind also this is a weekend meeting that implies gap risk. 

Equities

The S&P 500 eased 5pts yesterday to finish on 2,945. Asia has been softer overnight. Futures indicate European shares are lower today since there is really little fresh catalyst for bulls before we learn more about the Trump-Xi meeting in Osaka and what this means for global trade, tariffs et al.  

US trade supremo Robert Lighthizer spoke to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Monday, at least paving the way for talks to take place in Japan. The FTSE 100 might struggle to hold the 7400 level today.

The US has hit Iran with more sanctions. No sense of de-escalation, but also no material worsening in the situation. The tensions offer short-term support for oil still with Brent steady around $64 and WTI shade below $54. 

Gold

Gold firmed again overnight as we see the path to more gains being cleared. Gold hit a fresh six-year high amid a perfect blend of supporting factors. Four things are really driving gold – falling yields, a weaker dollar, a soft macroeconomic outlook and geopolitical risks rising in the Middle East. 

Prices hit $1438, breaking resistance on $1433 before paring those gains to trade around $1426 at send time. Looking to break $1446 next. 

Gold has huge negative correlation with real yields, which have come right down. US 10yr around 2%, now back to where they were in 2016 – if it goes lower, we would expect further gold strength. The surge in negative-yielding debt is undoubtedly key to the rally, and can be viewed as similar to the rise in gold prices and negative yield assets in 2016. 

Forex

The dollar remains on the defensive. The dollar index has dropped further to trade around 95.50. 

Sterling can’t catch much bid – GBPUSD remains off its lows around 1.2750 but is failing to make real inroads versus the greenback as Brexit uncertainty weighs heavily. Short positioning has eased but this remains a crowded trade. 

We have the no-deal exit risk of course – Boris Johnson has said he is prepared to take Britain out without a deal come October 31st. But we also have General Election risk – chatter about a no-confidence vote being supported by a dozen or so Tory rebels could lead to the government falling and inevitably an election. Boris Johnson could end up the Lady Jane Grey of Downing Street if that were the case. This introduces risks of a) Brexit delay and ongoing political uncertainty, b) a hung parliament with no clear route out of Brexit, and c) a Corbyn-led Labour government that would be very risky for UK assets and equites. 

The euro is faring better, with EURUSD up to regain the 1.14 handle, trading at 3-month peaks. 

Cryptos

Bitcoin firmed again, cementing the gains above $11k. I would reiterate the comments from yesterday – it’s a hard market to stand in front of when it builds momentum like this. The buzz and the hype has returned. You can talk about Libra, or the halving next year, more and more institutional interest and so on, but ultimately this is a bubble again. Look for $11,600, the highs from Feb last year as offering the big test. 

Bitcoin jumps, stocks steady ahead of G20

Forex
Morning Note

All that glitters is not gold. Bitcoin is sparkling again but beware…breakdown’s coming up ‘round the bend. 

Bitcoin jumped above $11,000, taking it to its highest level since March 2018. Futures are back down to $10,855 around send time. Investors are ignoring what happened the last time we saw parabolic rises like this. Is it different this time? No, but people have short memories. Facebook’s Libra white paper may have stoked renewed interest in cryptos at a time when the buzz had already returned.

Bitcoin is more mature etc, but the fundamentals of this scheme remain unaltered. What I would say is that arguably big money is starting to view this differently and think it could be very costly to ignore if they get left behind. 

It may also be that the sharp liquidity boost we’ve seen from central banks is helping bitcoin. As we noted last week, it was only a matter of time before the $10k level was taken out it and now ultimately a retest of the ATHs near $20k looks very plausible. 

Once this market builds up a head of steam, it’s hard to stop it. As previously argued, this is a big momentum play and the more buzz there is, the more that traders will pile in behind the rising wave. Bears could get burned before the market turns – maybe better to wait and let it fizzle out, which it will eventually. The more it rallies, the bigger the blow-up when it comes. However, we should expect some pullbacks and retracements along the way. 

Equities, G20 

Stocks are maybe looking a little softer with the S&P 500 easing off its all-time highs on Friday and we’ve had a mixed bag from Asia overnight. Japan closed a shade higher at 21,285.  

Futures indicate European shares are trading on the flatline as investors take a breather and look ahead to the G20 later in the week. FTSE 100 finding support at 7400, with resistance at 7460.

Coming up this week the G20 is centre stage for markets. President Donald Trump is expected to meet Chinese counterpart XI Jinping at this week’s G20 meeting in Osaka. 

Last week Mr Trump tweeted: “Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.” No one thinks the US and China will do a deal in Osaka, but there is some hope that we will have a positive development that marks a shift in the rhetoric and a re-energising of talks following the breakdown in the recent discussions.  

Iran, oil 

Iranian tensions are not going away, providing some support for oil. Brent was trading around the $65 mark, with WTI at $58. Fundamentals remain bearish but the uncertainty in the Middle East, specifically the risk of a closure of sea lanes, is enough to keep crude above water. 

Since last week we’ve had news of the US launching a cyberattack on Iran and warnings from Iran about what a war would mean. Expect lots of turbulence from this but ultimately it does not look like the White House is spoiling for a fight. The risk is, as ever, in a miscalculation. 

Gold remained firm, holding above $1400 as a weaker dollar combined with dovish central banks kept traders happy to bid up the metal. Geopolitical tensions may be a small factor, but ultimately gold has huge negative correlation with real yields, which have come right down. Friday’s move off the lows later in the session were key and the bull trend remains intact. A rebound in USD could trap bulls.

FX 

The dollar is softer with the euro and sterling holding gains. The euro is holding at a three-month high around 1.1380 – look for a push to 1.14. 

Trading around 1.2760, GBPUSD is facing stiff resistance from previous highs and a big Fib level coming in, so we need to see this level breached on the upside to be more confident that the pound can maintain its gains.  

Coming up this week – Fed speakers and the PCE inflation print will keep the FX market interested.

Fed holds, pound breaks $1.27 ahead of BoE

Equities
Forex
Morning Note

Stocks firmed and the dollar fell, whilst gold rallied to a 5-year high as the Fed opened the door to cutting rates.

It’s like 2010 all over: the race to the bottom is on. Only this time the global economy is coming off a period of remarkable synchronised expansion, not a terrible recession and the worst financial crisis in a generation or more. So what gives!? Must Powell acquiesce to the whims of his president? Must Draghi end his tenure not normalising, but actually cutting rates even deeper?

Draghi to be fair has little option. In the absence of structural and fiscal reform – blame Germany – he can but tinker around the edges of the zero lower bound, hoping to weaken the currency to get some competitiveness back. Powell is in a different position, although really it looks like central banks are spitting in the wind in trying to shift inflation expectations. They should try to focus on boosting oil prices instead.

FOMC holds

So yesterday the FOMC nudged towards a cut. Nearly half the 17 members of the FOMC think cuts will be warranted this year. The median dot plot suggests 50bps in cuts through 2020. The dots evinced a shift from a tightening bias to an easing bias. The patient mantra was dropped, whilst the economy is now only expanding at a ‘moderate’, not ‘solid’, rate. The market took this as a sign the Fed’s listening to their demands – a cut in July is now fully priced in.

But there’s yet optionality for Powell and co. The Fed refrained from explicit references to cuts. The median dot plot shows no cuts this year still. The market is ahead of itself again. If we believe the dots, rate cuts will come slower than the market wants them to.

In some ways the Fed thread the needle here – keeping the market and the president happy without actually committing to cuts. The dots suggest the Fed is saying: “Of course we will cut, just not yet-good enough?”. For now it is. But the tail seems to be wagging the dog, forcing the Fed to follow sooner or later.

Certainly revising inflation expectations lower points to concerns that tame price growth cannot simply be attributed to transient factors. Yet at the same time the Fed thinks unemployment will be lower and growth stronger than it thought in March.

The problem we have is that Fed looks like it is flip-flopping; changes its mind based not on economic data but on the caprice of financial markets; appears in thrall to the White House; and is therefore at a very serious risk of losing its credibility.

Markets

Yields hit the deck. US 10yr bond yields slipped beneath 2% again for the first time since 2016. Bunds heading deeper into negative territory.

Gold rallied on the outcome as yields sank, breaking north of $1385. It’s now cleared a tonne of important multi-year resistance, paving the way for a return to $1400 and beyond. This is a big move, but if the Fed doesn’t deliver the cuts the bulls could be caught out.

Stocks liked it – the S&P 500 notched gains of about 0.3%, Limited upside as the Fed was not as dovish as the market wanted and because a lot of this was already priced in. Asian markets rallied across the board.

Futures show European stocks are on the front foot, catching a tailwind from Wall Street and the Fed. The FTSE 100 may underperform though as the pound is finding bid.

Oil has climbed as US inventories feel three times more than expected. Brent was up at $63.50, threatening to break free from its recent range – look for $63.80. WTI at $55.50 also close to breaking out of its trough.

FX

The dollar kicked lower after the Fed decision – but with the ECB looking super easy the gains versus the euro are limited. Likewise the yen with the Bank of Japan also ready to step up stimulus. Likewise the Australian dollar, with RBA governor Lowe talking up a further, imminent, cut. The race to the bottom is on. Is it too soon to talk about currency wars?

The exception here is the Bank of England, which is heading towards raising rates. We get to learn more about the BoE’s position later today. The difference here is the inflation expectations, which are moving up, not down like they are elsewhere. Britain’s also enjoying strong wage growth and a super-tight labour market. All of this is dependent on a smooth Brexit – this is not a given by any means.

Indeed, Brexit is keeping the lid on sterling’s gains – the prospect of Boris Johnson taking Britain out of the EU come October 31st is a risk. There’s now talk of a possible general election if he gets in – risky, we know what happened to May. The prospect of a general election would not do anything to remove uncertainty around UK assets. Zero clarity still.

EURUSD moved through 1.12 and was last at 1.1280, but failing to gain enough momentum to rally above 1.13 and scrub out the Draghi-inspired losses.

GBPUSD has reclaimed 1.27. Quite a chunky move here, blasting through a couple of big figures in under a day. Maybe the prospect of a more hawkish BoE is helping the pound, albeit the market is actually pricing in cuts, not hikes. At least Mark Carney doesn’t have to deal with a political leader on his case…

USDJPY lost the 108 handle to trade at 107.50, now breaking free into new 2019 lows (ex the Jan flash crash).”

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